Welcome back to yet another edition of our 2020 Countdown to Kickoff series! Since Wednesday, the Oklahoma Sooners have been back on campus working out with the strength and conditioning coaches. If that’s not exciting enough, there are also just 64 days left until the start of the upcoming college football season! With that in mind, I want to use this opportunity to throw it back to the moment OU RB Dominique Whaley scored from 64 yards out to immortalize himself in Red River history.
To fully appreciate the significance to this incredible play, one should have proper context of the factors that led to it. Following the 2009 season, a running back named Dominique Whaley walked-on to OU’s football team. As the son of two military parents, he spent a couple years living in Germany. That’s where his prowess as an athlete really began to stand out.
Going into his junior year he moved back state-side, Whaley adjusted to his new home in Lawton, Oklahoma while playing for MacArthur High School. His recruitment was relatively quiet, and that ultimately led to his decision to go the NAIA route at Langston University — an HBCU located approximately one hour north of Norman.
After a ho-hum freshman campaign with the Lions, Whaley spent the next year away from football to focus on taking care of his younger siblings, but deep down he knew his window of opportunity to make a name for himself on a football field was still open. Weighing his options, he came to the conclusion that the University of Oklahoma was the place for him to take that chance.
Per transfer rules, Whaley was forced to redshirt in 2010, but as the 2011 season drew near, he made the most of his practice reps, proving himself worthy to both his coaches and teammates. In the opener against Tulsa, he was named co-starter alongside Brennan Clay, and he went completely off for a whopping 131 yards and four touchdowns.
That sensational debut made him an instant fan favorite among the Sooner faithful. It was clear that he was no ordinary walk-on. He displayed great speed, elite balance, and a motor that just never, ever stopped. Fortunately for the Sooners, he brought his natural-born abilities with him to the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 8, and in one play, he etched his place in Red River glory and caused Bevo to turn away in disgust.
Oklahoma was already in the midst of dismantling the Texas Longhorns, and by halftime there was little doubt as to how the game would end. Still, as punctuation marks go, Dom’s career-best 64-yard touchdown run is as definitive as any. Whatever adjustments UT’s defense planned on making in the second half were totally nullified by a scholarship-less running back. At the end of the day, the Sooners returned home with a 55-17 victory over their arch-rivals and the Golden Hat in tow.
A few weeks later, Bob Stoops removed the walk-on tag from Whaley’s name by awarding his star RB with a scholarship, and deservedly so. Unfortunately, he suffered an ankle injury in the beginning of the Kansas State game just days prior to the good news, sidelining him for the rest of the 2011 season.
Whaley would return for his senior year in 2012, and while he started atop the depth chart to open the season, the emergence of newcomer Damien Williams combined with the lingering effects of the ankle injury gradually led to a much more limited role in the Sooners’ offense. When it was all said and done, the former Langston tailback wrapped up his Oklahoma career with 870 rushing yards and 10 TDs on 152 carries in 13 games played. He also added 167 receiving yards on 19 receptions to his OU resume.
Although Whaley went unselected in the 2013 NFL Draft, he was able to reach terms with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent. After roughly a month with the team, he underwent surgery to better mend his previously-injured ankle. The decision effectively shut down his NFL career before it could start, but what he managed to accomplish in college is something OU fans won’t be forgetting any time soon.
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